Written by Mark Champion
German Foreign Minister Annalena Boerbuck said that Europe would be better prepared for a possible second term of Donald Trump’s presidency in the United States than it would be for the “absolute shock” of the first term. I wish it was true. The truth is that no one other than the former US president and his supporters will be ready for the second round, if it comes.
Boerbock belongs to the German Green Party and is a liberal by all accounts, so she had the right intuition during her visit to the United States. Instead of staying in her comfort zone, visiting Democrats and somewhat like-minded Biden administration officials, she entered the MAGA lion’s den in Texas, meeting, among others, with the state’s governor, Greg Abbott.
It’s hard to imagine this discussion. Abbott supported bans on abortion and same-sex marriage, opposed all forms of gun control, and encouraged investment in fossil fuels over renewable energy sources. He also opposes the Biden administration’s defense funding policy in Ukraine, which, according to Abbott, comes at the expense of the United States’ domestic needs.
So Burbock deserves a lot of credit for trying to figure out what she was up against. As she rightly pointed out in an interview Sunday on Bloomberg TV, foreign diplomats do not get to choose U.S. presidents. Trump currently looks like the favorite to win at least the Republican primary for the presidential nomination, and if he returns to the White House, a revolution in US domestic and foreign policy will likely follow.
However, the shock will be greater than in 2016, because the Trump team will be able to accelerate its policy priorities, and the impact will be greater – in Europe as well as in the United States. At the time, Trump had no team and few thoughtful policies ready for high office, as no one expected him to win.
It took three years of a four-year term to purge the last of the so-called “adults in the room” — former officials like Gary Cohn and Rex Tillerson or military leaders like James “Mad Dog” Mattis — who as members of the Cabinet were thwarting the implementation of some of Trump’s worst ideas. . Even his attempt to steal the 2020 elections did not succeed.
So, although Bourbock is right that seven years ago no European could have imagined being able to sit down facing an American president who refused to support NATO, the alliance ultimately survived. For all of Trump’s anger at the NATO summit, there was an American general to offer reassurances and assurances. US military spending in Europe actually peaked at $6.5 billion under Trump in 2019, up from $3.4 billion in 2017, the final year of the Obama administration.
This time, Republican MAGA think tanks and former Trump officials will have spent four years preparing detailed staff rosters and policy documents. This includes legislation that would enable them to begin their term by purging “out of line” officials, and this time the government is unlikely to include “seniors” who might intervene decisively.
Trump, who considers the line between his personal interests and those of the United States blurred, will aim to take revenge on those he considers enemies at home and abroad. Germany stands out among them. Vladimir Putin, again, no.
It is not surprising that during her trip to the United States, Burbock emphasized the importance of continuing NATO’s “life security” policy in dealing with Europe and defending Ukraine. He said that Germany had completely restructured its foreign policy since last February to do the “right thing” by defending the “victims” of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. He also spoke about how the crisis showed how important the transatlantic alliance was to both sides, as expressed in opposition to an attack whose success would destroy the so-called rules-based international order. All of the above is true, and traditional Republicans in the United States will agree with much of it. However, every word triggers a backlash from Trump and his supporters.
Ukraine, in Europe as well as in the United States, has increasingly become a point of interest in domestic politics, with far-right parties claiming that spending to support it deprives domestic priorities of resources. The Alternative for Germany (AfD) party now ranks second in opinion polls in the country of Burbuk. The grievances fueling these parties are likely to grow stronger between now and the US presidential election in November 2024, as the impact of higher interest rates and rising costs of living will dampen growth and employment.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine would reshape the European security architecture in the long term. A second Trump administration would also test to the brink of complete destruction the basic idea of shared democratic values underpinning the US-European alliance, values that are already being tested and will be hard-pressed to survive another four years of MAGA policymaking in the White House.
The isolationist and deeply conservative US White House is likely to come, if not in 2024, and if not under Trump, then at some point in the future. To truly prepare for this eventuality, Europe will have to do the hard things it has talked about but has largely failed to do for years, if not decades: develop a real capacity for a truly strategic and joint foreign policy, and unified defense procurement to avoid wasted resources. multiple versions of the same weapons systems, and streamline its collective defense spending of $345 billion annually so it can massively upgrade its forces.
Not only would Europe be able to provide its own life insurance, but it would also become a more attractive ally even to the most skeptical Americans.
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